My normal route to work takes me along a narrow country road where, in the summer months over the last couple of years, I have noticed the growth of huge giant hogweed along the hedgerows. This invasive plant seems to have been introduced to the British Isles from central Asia via Kew Gardens in the early 19th century. It became popular in ornamental gardens, spread into the wild, and is now found all over Britain and Ireland. It is a striking plant, growing to over 3 meters high, with an impressive span of white flowers, massive seed pods and huge leaves. The plant has gained notoriety because of its sap which contains chemicals known as fluranocoumarins. The chemical, when it comes into contact with the skin, particularly in sunlight, can cause serious burns and blistering, and even blindness if it gets in the eyes. It is recommended that anyone coming into contact with the plant wears protective clothing and goggles. Playing children in particular tend to come into contact with the sap, and the results can be horrific. I personally know of one local who’s child was hospitalised with burns after playing in an area where the plant was growing.
It may be eyecatching, but keep your distance!
These photos were taken at the end of June.